CHAPTER SEVENTY FIVE

"Nothing?"

"No, sir. Everything's quiet. It could be just what it seems..."

Silence on the other end of the line. He waited it out.

"Very well, Able 40. Continue the surveillance. Will you need any more assistance?"

"No, sir, three of us should be more than adequate. I'll let you know if there is anything."

The line went dead without a response.

He hung up the phone, moved back to the chair, placed back from the window. A tripod with a small telescope sat in front of the chair, facing the building across the street. He had been watching the building, the window, for several hours. So far, there had been only occasional movement. Nothing significant. That would come.

To his right was a table covered with electronics. The Ables had been industrious and thorough. There was not a room allotted to the priest that he could not listen in on. So far there had been very little, a brief conversation with the nun, mumbled prayers. A separate recording device sat on the end of the table, taping any conversations placed on what was apparently the retreat's only telephone. There had only been one phone call, a few hours earlier.

A light suddenly appeared through the window he was watching. The door to the room had been opened. He watched the silhouette move into the inner apartment, then the light abruptly disappeared. Moments later, a red light on a monitor began blinking. He watched it out of the corner of his eye, while keeping the front door of the building across the street centered in the eyepiece of the telescope. The first man stepped cautiously out of that door, looking up and down the street. The man moved down the street, toward the intersection. Moments later, a second man appeared.

Quietly, he reached over and flipped on a second monitor. The door to the retreat appeared, a light in the small window next to it.

Soon. Very soon.


*****

Hannibal looked at Face for a moment before nodding at the others. The plan was already in place, and each man knew where to go, what to do, as they filed silently out of the door. Perhaps they were being too paranoid about Stockwell; perhaps not. Hannibal would effectively be leaving his lieutenant alone with an elderly priest and a couple of nuns; he was taking no chances.

Nevertheless, something was off. Something about Face. The way he'd looked at Hannibal when he came out of the bedroom. Something had changed since they'd arrived.

The others had gone now, and Hannibal waited for the all clear before he and Face moved out of the apartment. Anything, anything at all that didn't look right, and they'd wait until the next night. Or the next. Hannibal wanted Face to feel safe. If he didn't, he wouldn't give this a real chance. He may not, anyway. He may go in, talk to the priest and then walk away. Hannibal hoped that wouldn't happen. He hoped Father Magill would be able to convince him to stay, to give it a shot. But he also knew that there was a very small window of opportunity. Magill had to have something for Face in those first few minutes that would make him want to stay. Out of curiosity, anger - maybe even a triggered memory. But he had to have something to grab Face and hold him.

Hannibal's radio crackled. All clear. He looked over at Face again. Whatever he'd been thinking when he came out of the bedroom, his expression was calm now.

"It's clear. Ready?"

"Yeah. Let's get this over with."

Minutes later, Hannibal stood just outside the door, looking, listening. All quiet. He nodded back at Face and stepped across the street. He didn't look, but could hear his lieutenant close behind him, no hesitation in his step. In a moment they were at the door to the retreat. Before Hannibal could ring the bell, the door opened. Father Magill glanced at him, then peered at the man behind him.

"Welcome, Templeton. It's been a long time."

Face didn't say a word in acknowledgement, just stepped past Hannibal into the doorway. He turned then, looking back at him.

"My choice, my decision. Right? Whatever happens, no more interference from you."

Hannibal kept his voice neutral, hard as it was. "You have my word."

Once again, there was that flicker of something, and then it was gone. Face didn't say another word to either man, merely stepped further into the hallway and stopped, looking quickly at the layout, waiting. Father Magill looked at Hannibal, nodding, a small, sympathetic smile on his lips. Hannibal nodded in return, stepped back, and watched as the door slowly but firmly closed.

It was out of his hands now.


*****

Father Magill turned from the door and stood for a moment, regarding the man in front of him. He looked the same, mainly, as he always had. Thinner, perhaps, than the last time they'd met. It wasn't until Templeton turned and looked back at him that Magill noticed the difference. Instead of warmth, humor and affection, there was coldness, suspicion and distrust. And then the priest almost stepped back as his former charge let him see, for a moment only, the core of his emotions toward him.

Pure. Unadulterated. Hatred.

And then it was gone. The eyes died, and the face was calm. Neutral. It took Magill a moment to collect himself. He had no idea why Templeton would look at him that way. As far as he knew, as far as the colonel knew, Templeton had no recollection of him, had no reason to feel anything toward him. Surely he couldn't hate him because of this meeting. Templeton had, after all, agreed to it, and knew he was able to leave whenever he chose.

Forcing what he hoped was a non-threatening smile on his face, Magill nodded toward the end of the hall.

"Our rooms are down this way, Templeton. If you decide to stay for a while," he hastened to add.

A frown of distaste appeared. "I suppose you're going to insist on calling me Templeton."

"I'm sorry. I'm just used to calling you that. I have for many years now." He may have to be careful, but he was just as determined to be honest. "Is there another name you would prefer?"

Father Magill felt the first glimmer of hope then, as the face looking at him went totally blank.


*****

He sat in the room, looking at the ceiling. Beside him on the bed was the box Magill had given him when they reached their rooms. He hadn't looked at it yet; hadn't even decided if he would. Hadn't even thought about it, really. Magill had just given it to him and said they would talk in the morning, when they were both "rested".

"Rested." Like he would get any sleep tonight.

He started counting the squares of tile on the ceiling. Somewhere in the middle he lost count, started over again, patiently. Randy had told him to do that when he needed to get his mind back in focus. No matter how many times he had to restart, he would count until he'd gotten all the way across the ceiling, at the same pace. No rushing, no cutting corners. It wasn't as easy as it seemed; after a while, his eyes got tired of focusing on the next tile, and would skitter here and there. It took patience and will power to stay on target. But it worked, every time.

And he needed to get things back on track.

Needed to remember what his plan was. His plan to stop Magill. Stop him from doing to anyone else what he'd done to him. To Randy. Stop him from destroying anyone else.

But he couldn't remember his plan. He'd thought it out so carefully. Get the answers to his questions, and then neutralize the bastard. He'd had it all right there, in his head. How to do it without raising the guy's suspicions, without having Stockwell's army called down on his head. To make it all seem natural. The guy was old, after all. There would be nothing suspicious if he died of a heart attack. And he'd had it all figured out, how to do that.

But he couldn't remember it now. It was there, in his head, but he couldn't remember the details.

All he could think about was that question.

He frowned, concentrated on the ceiling tiles again. He'd lost count a long time ago, had just sat there staring at the ceiling. Not good. Concentrate. Focus. Forget the damn...it didn't matter.

One...two...three...four...five...

Didn't matter...he hadn't even thought about it...

Six...seven...eight...nine...

Until now...

Ten...eleven...twelve...thirteen...

Couldn't leave any marks, he knew that...

Fifteen...sixteen...seventeen...

He should know it...everyone knew it...

Nineteen...twenty-one...

It was just the first step...starting all over again...Magill knew that...

Twenty-five...

Magill was just trying to catch him off guard...

Twenty-two...

It was his fault. That false priest...

Twenty-one...

He knew....he just couldn't find it yet...he just had to think...

Twenty-three...twenty-four...

Damn...he knew his name...he did...

Thirty...


*****

He listened for some time. The counting was becoming more and more aimless. That wasn't good.

That wasn't good at all...